Thick storms are gathering again in the country’s aviation sector following the recent announcement by the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Hajia Zainab Ahmed, that President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the adoption of the report of Steve Oronsaye Committee report.
Oronsaye committee was constituted in 2014 during the former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration to prune down what was called the over bloated number of government agencies and parastatals and seek ways of cutting cost of governance in the country.
After several deliberations, the committee’s report came up with an 800-page report, recommending the abolishment and merging of 102 government agencies and parastatals.
The report of the committee heightened tension across the aviation sector in 2014 as it suggested the merger of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority ( NCAA), the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), and the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMET) to become the Federal Civil Aviation Authority (FCAA).
Key players had argued against the merger plan on the premise that it negated the regulations of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), which prescribed the separation of the operations of service providers from that of a regulator.
In this situation, merging NCAA, the country’s regulatory body with NAMA and NiMET, service providers will lead to conflict of duties and subsequently create a dangerous lacuna in the running of aviation policies. In other words, since separation of provision from regulation is in consonance with the principles of good governance, the oversight function of the NCAA must be seen as independent and transparent.
The latest decision of the President Muhammadu Buhari’s government to revisit the Oronsaye’s report has again set the sector on fire with stakeholders kicking against any attempt to merge the aviation agencies whose functions are unique and sensitive.
Some of the parastatals and agencies according to the government “have become an embarrassing financial baggage that ought to be pruned down through merging and/or scrapping. With over 600 parastatals, with quite a number of them duplicating efforts, coupled with the economic realities of the day, the time has come for a re-visit to the Steve Oronsaye Committee Report which had suggested a pruning down to about 110 agencies only.”
Certainly, any government that is worth its salt needs not wait to start looking into how to cut cost as a means of surviving the serious havoc coronavirus has wrought and still wrecking on all facets of the economy.
Obviously, one of such ways of cushioning the pandemic’s effect is cutting down all loopholes through which public funds are being wasted, but in doing this, there is a serious need for government to avoid a blanket implementation of the report in order not to complicate issues even more.
It is therefore, very necessary for government to review the call for the merger of the NCAA, NAMA and NiMET by the committee in view of the future negative implications such merger will have on the country’s aviation sector.
There is the need for government to recognise the fact that because rules and regulations guiding aviation management are based on international principles, Nigeria’s aviation sector cannot be an island on its own.
If the ICAO rules stipulate that a regulatory body like NCAA whose main function is to ensure compliance to aviation rules through adequate oversighting, it can not be merged with agencies that are service providers like NAMA and NiMET for seamless and coordinated organisation, there is therefore no sense in merging the three in Nigeria unless the country is no more a signatory to the ICAO standard and recommended practices and the relevant annexes.
For the fact that aviation is a sector that is run absolutely on global international standard which cannot be lowered by an individual or government’s policy, it will be suicidal or counter productive for any committee to neglect all these and lump three different agencies performing three different functions together.
Should government go ahead to ignore all the clarion calls to exempt the aviation agencies from this bandwagon decision, it should be willing to take responsibility for the consequences the bad policy will create for the sector.
At any rate, the decision to prune down the size of the aviation agencies and parastatals cannot be enough to improve the economy of the country, rather, such efforts should also be extended to the need to urgently merge the House of Representatives and the Senate which have become a serious draining pipe to national economy.
As government is looking for all ways of cutting cost, of what use will it be if in the cause of reducing the aviation agencies, safety components are left hanging in the balance because of a bad policy? Obviously, merging aviation agencies will bring more negative financial and safety disaster to the sector and the country at large. The aviation sector should therefore, be exempted from the Oronsaye controversial report.
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